THE Rohingya militant group Arsa killed dozens of Hindu civilians and abducted others during an attack in Rakhine state last August, according to a new investigation from Amnesty International.
Through interviews with survivors the report, released Wednesday, discovered how Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) fighters sowed fear among Hindus and other ethnic communities with these brutal attacks.
Wielding guns and swords, the militant group were responsible for at least one, and potentially a second, massacre of up to 99 Hindu villagers in August 2017, the report found.
“Our latest investigation on the ground sheds much-needed light on the largely under-reported human rights abuses by Arsa during northern Rakhine State’s unspeakably dark recent history,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.
“It’s hard to ignore the sheer brutality of Arsa’s actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we’ve spoken to. Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine State.”
Our new investigation shows that Rohingya armed group ARSA killed & abducted scores of Hindus in Rakhine State, August 2017. Accountability for these human rights abuses is as crucial as that for the crimes against humanity committed by Myanmar's military. https://t.co/mDwHwFtOVI
— AmnestyInternational (@amnesty) May 22, 2018
At the time, Arsa denied any involvement in the massacre. The group has not released any statements in over four months and has not responded to Amnesty’s accusations.
According to the report, on August 25 last year, Arsa militants, aided by some local Rohingya, descended on the village of Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik, in the northern Maungdaw township in Rakhine.
They rounded up all Hindu men, women, and children, before executing 53 of them. Only those who agreed to convert to Islam were spared.
Hindu survivors told Amnesty they either saw relatives being killed or heard their screams.
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Bina Bala, a 22-year-old woman who survived the massacre, told Amnesty International:
“[The men] held knives and long iron rods. They tied our hands behind our backs and blindfolded us. I asked what they were doing. One of them replied, ‘You and Rakhine are the same, you have a different religion, you can’t live here. He spoke the [Rohingya] language. They asked what belongings we had, then they beat us. Eventually, I gave them my gold and money.”
The bodies of 45 people from Ah Nauk Kha Maung Seik were unearthed in four mass graves in late September 2017.
The remains of the rest of the victims from that village, as well as 46 people missing from neighbouring Ye Bauk Kyar village, have not been found to date.
The details of Arsa attacks have gone largely unreported in light of the “unlawful and grossly disproportionate campaign of violence” undertaken by Burma’s security forces against the Rohingya minority.
The army has been found to manipulate the local Hindu population to stoke division and support their narrative that the Rohingya were violent. In September, it came to light that local Hindu villagers who were displaced by fighting were used to stage photos dressed as Muslims pretending to destroy their own villages.
Almost 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since the crackdown began in August. The military has been accused of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. But that does not mean Arsa should not face justice for the suffering they have caused, say Amnesty.
“Both must be condemned – human rights violations or abuses by one side never justify abuses or violations by the other,” Hassan said.
“It’s hard to ignore the sheer brutality of Arsa’s actions, which have left an indelible impression on the survivors we’ve spoken to. Accountability for these atrocities is every bit as crucial as it is for the crimes against humanity carried out by Myanmar’s security forces in northern Rakhine state.”